Recent Theatre Trips #2: Les Misérables

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As I mentioned in my last theatre review, over the Christmas holidays I went to see three shows. Les Mis was the second. My mum booked tickets for a kind of ‘mum and daughter night out’, as we don’t get to do that sort of thing very often any more, and it was really lovely to be able to have some good ol’ fashioned quality time together again (probably like most people, I appreciate it much more now I’ve moved out)! We went to a gorgeous little Italian restaurant beforehand on the edge of Chinatown (basically opposite the theatre)  called Astoria.  I recommend it if you’re wanting some yummy food that’s served quickly and has an atmosphere of a ‘nice’ place without being snooty. It’s really close to the theatre too.

After adequately stuffing ourselves with mozzarella, parma ham, olives, pizza AND sorbet, we wandered over to the Queen’s Theatre. I should mention first that both mum and I have seen this musical before. We went a few years ago with some friends. But that did not put us off wanting to revisit. It’s possibly my favourite musical ever (strong words!) and I think it might be my mum’s too. After watching the movie in the cinema twice I was itching to go back  to the theatre and see the ‘original’. I think it’s one of those iconic musicals you will never forget or see too many times (for me anyway).

Needless to say, we both loved seeing it for the second time. I did find myself comparing it to the movie quite a lot, and for some of the numbers I think the realistic set of revolutionary France just tops the on-stage version (particularly in Do You Hear the People Sing, when the characters take over the military parade). I also wasn’t a massive fan of the girl playing Fantine, but that might be because I loved Anne Hathaway. And let’s not forget that the way the movie was filmed meant that they could sing live rather than over a pre-recorded track, which I think really helped allow the actors to play the characters intimately. Although they were, of course, singing live in the theatre, the necessity of projecting to the audience meant it was difficult to get the ‘up close and personal’ effect that the film achieved.

As I was watching the show, I couldn’t help thinking just how damn good the score is. The music is so complex. The way that Schönberg works motifs through all the songs so you recognise and remember them is extremely clever, and once again the last note of Bring Him Home took my breath away, as I remember it doing the first time I saw it. There are some really beautiful songs, and coupled with the sense of rousing patriotism the actors create, the music can’t help but touch a chord in almost everyone that sees it (no pun intended).

It was clear this show was a well-oiled machine. Everything was slick and tightly rehearsed, from the musical numbers to the bows. In my opinion it’s a must-see if you love theatre, even if you only go to see what all the hype is about. Tickets range from around £22 to £70, although in my experience it’s pretty tricky to get a cheap ticket as it’s often sold out. However, it’s not the longest running musical in the world for nothing! I would happily go and see it over and over again if I had the chance.

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